Anticipation is starting to build for the 2017 NFL Draft as players, scouts, and coaches are gearing up for the NFL Scouting Combine on February 28th. In the coming weeks, there will be increased discussion and speculation regarding the incoming draft class which will give the public a better understanding of prospects’ stock and projected landing spot. Before all of this happens I wanted to give a look into how the draft could unfold for the Redskins as things stand at this moment in time.
After a fairly successful 2016 campaign in which the Redskins finished 8-7-1 and nearly snuck into the playoffs the Redskins are looking to add some players to their roster that will get them over the hump and into the playoffs next season. They are in prime position to do so as they are projected to have ten picks in the upcoming draft, including two in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. This should allow Scot McCloughan to add players that address the team’s needs (defensive line, safety, linebacker, guard, and running back) as well as add quality players in other areas of the roster.
For this mock, each player has been assigned a composite ranking, these rankings were determined by taking each prospect’s ranking from CBS Sports, Daniel Jeremiah, FanSpeak, Matt Miller, Jon Dove, DraftTek, and Draft Wire and averaging all of the rankings to create one composite ranking. The composite rankings assist in providing a more accurate assessment of a player’s value in the upcoming draft. My own personal big board was used to supplement these rankings to determine who to select in the draft below.
Let’s take a look at how the draft could shake out for the Redskins:
1st Round – Pick 17 (17 Overall)
Taco Charlton – Defensive End – Michigan – 6’6″, 272 pounds – Senior
Composite Ranking: 24.00
The Redskins needs along the defensive line are well documented and luckily for them this draft class is flush with talent along the defensive line. Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen, Solomon Thomas, and Derek Barnett will likely be gone by the time the Redskins first round pick rolls around, however, Taco Charlton should be a nice consolation prize for them. Charlton is an athletic specimen with an ideal combination of size, length, and speed that make him a nightmare coming off the edge. While rushing the passer is his strong suit, his length projects his ability to grow into an an effective run defender at the next level. The concerns surrounding Charlton are mostly about his being only a one year starter at Michigan and that his production doesn’t match his talent level. Although these are valid concerns, his rare athleticism and ability to get after the quarterback should be enough to convince the Redskins to pull the trigger.
2nd Round – Pick 17 (49 Overall)
Raekwon McMillan – Inside Linebacker – Ohio State – 6’2″, 243 pounds – Junior
Composite Ranking: 53.20
There is one thing that has been lacking in the Redskins linebacking corps since the days of London Fletcher: playmaking ability. While Mason Foster and Will Compton have been completely serviceable at their position they are both players who are not difference makers. Enter Raekwon McMillan, a player with the potential to be the playmaker that the Redskins have been missing for years. McMillan is an intelligent and instinctive three-down linebacker who is quick to diagnose plays and take the correct angle to get to where he needs to be to make plays.He plays a physical brand of football in which he utilizes a style of play that can only be described as controlled aggression. The biggest knock on McMillan is his lack of explosiveness and agility which shows when he is asked to cover man to man or track down agile ball carriers in space, however, he has demonstrated that he can largely make up for his deficiencies by utilizing his instincts to be in the right place at the right time.
3rd Round – Pick 17 (81 Overall)
Marcus Maye – Free Safety – Florida – 6’0″, 216 pounds – rSenior
Composite Ranking: 90.20
Deangelo Hall and Will Blackmon simply won’t cut it at the free safety position if the Redskins hope to shore up their defensive woes. Neither player is the long term solution at the position as their play has been inconsistent, plus both are on the wrong side of 30. Therefore, it is imperative that the Redskins add some youth to the free safety ranks and find their long term solution at the position. Marcus Maye isn’t as highly touted as Malik Hooker or Budda Baker but he is a former All-American who should be able to step in and be an impact player early on. Maye is a sideline to sideline playmaker who impacts all facets of the game by utilizing his superior instincts, football intelligence, and athleticism. In the passing game he is excellent at diagnosing plays which allows him to stay one step ahead and puts him in position to make plays on the ball frequently. Maye also does not shy away from being physical, he is a reliable tackler who isn’t afraid to play downhill and help out in the run game. There are inconsistencies in his game when he is asked to cover man to man or play the ball deep downfield and he has a tendency to be over aggressive in pursuit of the ball carrier but these issues, while significant, are correctable and new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray should be the right guy to work with him considering Gray coached Maye at Florida..
4th Round – Pick 7 (114 Overall)
Nico Siragusa – Guard – San Diego State – 6’5″, 330 pounds – rSenior
Composite Ranking: 110.67
If you asked Redskins fans last off-season which position along the offensive line needed to be upgraded, the majority would most likely have responded center. Fast forward one year and the center position seems to be set for the time being as Spencer Long has taken over as the teams starting center and played well. The glaring weakness of the offensive line is now left guard where Shawn Lauvao has not played up to expectations and Arie Kouandijo does not look like the future at the position. There are a number of attractive options at guard in the upcoming draft including San Diego State standout Nico Siragusa, who is coming off a stellar senior season in which he was selected to the AP All-America team. Siragusa’s game is all based on power; he is at his best in a power based scheme in which he is asked to maul defenders off the snap. He is a force in the run game with the ability to drive defenders off the line and create holes for the running back (just ask Donnel Pumphrey). Siragusa is no slouch in pass protection either, he uses a strong base to stand his ground to prevent the defender from getting any push into the pocket. He struggles a bit when asked to hold blocks for long periods of time and can sometimes get lost when asked to move in space. Regardless, his skill set makes him an ideal fit in Bill Callahan’s power based scheme and he should be able to compete for a starting job day one.
4th Round – Pick 17 (124 Overall)
Channing Stribling – Cornerback – Michigan – 6’2″, 175 pounds – Senior
Composite Ranking: 129.00
Cornerback is not the most pressing need on the Redskins roster as they have Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland entreched as starters and Kendall Fuller waiting in the wings but they could stand to add some depth with Greg Toler set to hit the free agent market. Channing Stribling is an intriguing option because he is a type of corner that the Redskins don’t currently have and could use on their roster. Stribling is a press cornerback who has considerable length and knows how to use that to his advantage. He put his coverage skills on display this season, allowing just 19 catches on 63 targets, as well as exhibiting a knack for getting his hands on the ball, notching 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended. Additionally, Stribling is a willing tackler and rarely lets his man get away due to his fundamentally sound tackling approach. There are questions about how Stribling will hold up in the NFL due to his slight frame as well as concerns about his long striding running style affecting his short area quickness. Nevertheless, Stribling’s length coupled with his skills in coverage make him a prospect worth betting on.
5th Round – Pick 10 (154 Overall)
Jeremy Sprinkle – Tight End – Arkansas – 6’5″, 256 pounds – rSenior
Composite Ranking: 151.00
Tight end was a position of strength on the Redskins roster last season with star player Jordan Reed as the headliner and Vernon Davis playing a valuable role as his backup. Notwithstanding, the Redskins face uncertainty at the position going forward. Jordan Reed has dealt with a slew of injuries throughout his career, Vernon Davis is a free agent, and the duo of Niles Paul and Derek Carrier have proven to be unreliable. With this being the case, the Redskins would benefit by adding a new face to the mix and the upcoming draft has talent at the tight end position. Jeremy Sprinkle is someone the Redskins should consider as he has undeniable talent and should be available in the mid to late rounds following a shoplifting incident that hurt his draft stock. Sprinkle is a jack of all trades at the tight end position; he has the speed and athleticism to be a threat in the passing game and the size and physicality to be an effective blocker. In the passing game, his big body will make him an immediate red zone threat and his speed should allow him to be a threat down the field. As a blocker, he uses his large frame, long arms, and massive to engage defenders and hold his blocks for the duration of a play. As mentioned earlier, Sprinkle has character questions that shouldn’t be taken lightly but the Redskins have several veteran leaders, including Vernon Davis if re-signed, that would teach Sprinkle a thing or two.
5th Round – Pick 17 (161 Overall)
Lorenzo Jerome – Safety – Saint Francis – 5’11”, 202 pounds – Senior
Composite Ranking: 160.00
The Redskins strong safety position, very much like the free safety position, was a mess last season with failed free agent acquisition David Bruton, a past his prime Donte Whitner, and an inconsistent Duke Ihenacho all manning the position at some point during the season. To fix this revolving door of players the Redskins will likely be moving Su’a Cravens to strong safety this upcoming season. Even with this move, Cravens is currently the only strong safety on the roster and instead of re-signing any of the aforementioned players, the Redskins could look for Cravens backup through the draft. Lorenzo Jerome is someone to watch as he has been moving up draft boards due to his superb play in both the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and Senior Bowl, recording a combined four interceptions and a fumble recovery between the two games. Jerome is a hybrid safety with the ball skills and speed of a free safety and the physicality of a strong safety. His strength is in coverage where he displays impressive play recognition and utilizes his speed and explosiveness to get to the ball in a hurry. Moreover, Jerome exhibits a willingness to take part in the more physical aspects of the position when defending the run. As an added bonus, Jerome can assist on special teams as he was an All-American returner. There will always be concerns about how an FCS player will adjust to NFL level competition, however, if Jerome’s play in the Senior Bowl is any indication then he looks to be a player who will succeed at the next level.
6th Round – Pick 17 (201 Overall)
Jeremiah Ledbetter – Defensive Tackle/End – Arkansas – 6’3″, 280 pounds – Senior
Composite Ranking: 219.50
As noted before, upgrading the personnel along the Redskins defensive line is one of the highest priorities this offseason and with the depth of this year’s defensive line class it would not be frowned upon to double dip into the defensive line prospect pool. One of the best late round defensive line prospects in this draft class is Arkansas defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter. He is smaller than the protoypical 4-3 defensive tackle but don’t let his size fool you, Ledbetter possesses more power than you would expect of a player his size.While at Arkansas he showed that he could produce at a high level against SEC competition, racking up 7.5 tackles for loss in both seasons with the team. He is proficient at taking advantage of one on one matchups in a variety of different ways; he can power through weaker defenders, blow by slower ones, or get underneath taller ones. Ledbetter’s size may be an issue for some teams as he doesn’t have a clear position in the NFL, however, he has the skill and versatility to operate both outside and inside which makes him well worth a pick in the late rounds.
6th Round – Pick 25 (209 Overall)
Jon Heck – Offensive Tackle – North Carolina – 6’7″, 300 pounds – rSenior
Composite Ranking: 299.50
Ty Nsekhe had a strong stint as the Redskins starting left tackle this season while filling in for a suspended Trent Williams. He is now a restricted free agent and his future largely depends on the tender that is placed on him and whether other teams value him as a starting tackle. In the situation that a team signs him to an offer sheet and the Redskins fail to match, the team would be in need of a new backup tackle. Jon Heck is a late round prospect who has the potential to be that guy for the Redskins.Heck is an experienced player who has made 49 career starts at right tackle for North Carolina. Throughout his collegiate career he has been reliable in pass protection, however, he has been a below average run blocker due to a lack of physicality at the point of attack. If he can learn to better use his large frame and long arms to engage defenders early on and generate push in the run game then Heck has potential to become a well rounded tackle at the next level. Ultimately, his is a quality value in the sixth round and working under Bill Callahan would accelerate his development into a solid depth option behind Trent Williams and Morgan Moses.
7th Round – Pick 17 (235 Overall)
Cooper Rush – Quarterback – Central Michigan – 6’3″, 230 pounds – rSenior
Composite Ranking: 329.50
Contract talks between Kirk Cousins and Redskins brass are currently at a standstill, Cousins will more than likely be back next season but whether it is under the franchise tag or a long term deal remains to be seen. Regardless of how the situation pans out, Redskins fans can expect Scot McCloughan to draft a quarterback at some point in the draft. McCloughan learned under Ron Wolf who believed in drafting a quarterback every year due to the importance of the position. Since the Redskins have several holes that need addressing at other positions, a quarterback will likely need to be drafted in the later stages of the draft. Cooper Rush is a quarterback that McCloughan should be sure to love due to his intelligence, leadership, hard working attitude, and commitment to football. Rush is a student of the game who has a well developed of his offense and the other team’s defense every time he touches the field. His understanding of the offense partly stems from the fact that he runs a pro style offense in which he has the responsibility of making all pre-snap decisions at the line. In addition, Rush has solid fundamentals and displays excellent pocket poise, accuracy, and timing. The weaknesses in his game all stem from his physical traits; he does not have the arm strength necessary to make all the NFL throws and has not displayed any athleticism or escapability to speak of. Despite his limitations, Rush’s intelligence and understanding of the game make him a suitable counterpart to Nate Sudfeld to compete for a backup quarterback position.
All the picks are in, let me know what you think of the players the Redskins added in the draft and stay tuned for another installment of Redskins Mock Offseason that previews the Redskins options in free agency.